Thursday, January 29, 2009

You're An All-Star In My Book, Baby!

I like for all of my articles to have a good opening paragraph. This particular column will not feature one. A single man's take on the reserves for the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix, announced Thursday on TNT:

Western Conference

F Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs - An easy selection: 26 points and 8 boards nightly, on 47/37/92 shooting percentages.

F Pau Gasol, Lakers - The NBA's latest, greatest super supporting player - he's like James Worthy, only 7-0 and Spanish with a scraggly beard. Oh, and somebody needs to send him some goggles and a knee pad, pronto. Consistent as all hell, Gasol gives you an 17 and 9 with 3 assists on 55 percent from the floor.

G Tony Parker, Spurs - Maybe a bit underrated at this point.

G Brandon Roy, Blazers - Joe Johnson West, with a surprisingly blistering first step.

C Shaquille O'Neal, Suns - He's found that fountain - he hasn't been this good since Miami won the whole damn 'chip. Who was expecting an 18 and 9 from Shaq this year? Even been logging about 34 minutes per for the past month and a half.

G Chauncey Billups, Nuggets - The man can run a basketball team. With Billups and Mike Bibby around, Sam Cassell's "steady, stabilizing veteran point guard" is in good hands.

F David West, Hornets - Now it gets tricky.

When it was announced that the "19-foot Assassin" would be making his second consecutive appearance (and he was the last Western player to be revealed), I immediately said "I know I can find some forward that's more deserving than David West." Turns out I could only come up with one forward - Big Al Jefferson, the league's most gifted young low post scorer, currently throwing up a 23-11 on a 16-28 Minny squadron.

As I wrote earlier this week, I don't have a problem with a couple of guys from bad teams playing in the All-Star Game. And that's especially the case if there's a spot that's clearly wide open.

I think this was one of those cases. The other six reserve picks were no-brainers; so I felt that the last one was a toss-up between Jefferson (who's probably a better player than West), and if not him than Deron Williams, if only because Williams is so underrated it's frustrating and he should have made it to the team the past two seasons but didn't. You have to admit, it's pretty ridiculous that Deron Williams has never been an All-Star before. Everyone agrees that he's the second best point guard in the world, but he still doesn't get nearly the recognition he deserves. It's confusing.

Now if you'll allow me a second...

I don't really know how to explain this, but the Shaq, Kobe, Phil reunion that is now officially going to be taking place next month is going to make for the most awkward and disappointing and slightly depressing moments of my career as a sports fan.

What am I to do if Kobe happens to feed Shaq on one of their patented "wrap-around-the-defender's-back-drop-off-and-jam" hookups?

Or if they relive "the Shaq!" which Bob Costas immortalized during Game 7 of the 2000 Western Finals against Portland?

Or if the three conspire to win the game at the end?

They clearly had unfinished business. This is an unfitting end. I am not looking forward to this.

Eastern Conference

F Paul Pierce, Celtics - Easy choice - 19 points, 6 boards, 4 assists, strong D - he's the second best small forward in the NBA. One of my favorite players in the league.

"C" Chris Bosh, Raptors - Because there was no East center that really and truly deserved this spot, I guess the coaches decided that they would just vote Bosh in as a center, even though he's not. I guess it was the best thing to do, though it does smell a little like a cop out.

Make no mistake; Bosh deserves to make the team. I think some players deserve to make the roster as long as they're healthy, and Bosh has reached that point, in my book.

David Lee is probably having the best year of all East centers - 16 points and 12 boards nightly, on 57 percent from the field. Ilgauskus has been hurt, and Lee has been simply been better than Okafor and Bogut. He's also on a 20-25 team, and the East squad already has three members on teams under .500 - which matters to me, but not the coaches, apparently.

But I like to go with a "feel" test in a situation like this - I don't like to give guys their first All-Star berth for their first arguable All-Star season, unless it's inherently obvious that they are All-Stars. Does David Lee feel like an All-Star to you? Me, neither.

G Joe Johnson, Hawks - Great player, definite All-Star...but blah.

Devin Harris, Nets - He's cooled off since a scorching start. He's been awarded an All-Star berth for the scorching start.

G Jameer Nelson, Magic - We'll get back to him.

F Danny Granger, Pacers - Love this guy. Keeps getting better. Definitely one of the five best small forwards in the league, and of all the guys on poor teams that garnered All-Star consideration, he was the most worthy.

F Rashard Lewis, Magic - We'll get to him right now.

First of all, Mo Williams has got to be an All-Star. Orlando has three All-Stars, Boston has two All-Stars, Cleveland Jameer Nelson does more for the Magic than Williams does for the Cavs? Other than LeBron taking a step forward and establishing himself as the best player since MJ, Mo Williams has been the ultimate reason Cleveland has gone from a one-man team that could beat anybody in a seven-game series because of that one man, to a true team that could potentially win 65 games.

I actually think Jameer should be in - he's been more important to Orlando's rise to prominence than Rashard, who, no disrespect meant at all, I would have left out in favor of Mo.

But that's just me.

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